20,000 in Warsaw protest


WARSAW – At least 20,000 Polish protesters marched through Warsaw yesterday demanding higher wages and social benefits, a day before Poland assumes the rotating presidency of the European Union.

The demonstrators carried banners and shouted “thieves, thieves” among other slogans as they passed by the parliament building, where they set fire to a pile of plastic chairs, and in front of the offices of prime minister Donald Tusk.

Like other European nations, Poland, which faces an election in October, is fighting increased unemployment and a large budget deficit, even though it was the only EU country to avoid recession during the global financial crisis.

“We came here for higher wages, for better work conditions in our factory and to be treated better than we have been treated so far,” said one of the protesters, who declined to be named.

Union officials put the turnout at about 80,000 people, although local media estimated the figure at about 20,000. A Warsaw police spokesman said it did not have its own estimate. – (Reuters)